Ford Launches New Car on Facebook and Twitter?

Ford Motor has high hopes for Fiesta, a popular model abroad launching in the U.S. next year.

So how does it introduce the subcompact car to Americans? A massive ad blitz on TV? In-house promotions at dealers nationwide?

Nope.

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In April, Ford tapped 100 top bloggers and gave them a Fiesta for six months. The catch: Once a month, they’re required to upload a video on YouTube about the car, and they’re encouraged to talk — no holds barred — about the Fiesta on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s extremely important to this company’s history,” says Scott Monty, whose job as head of social media at Ford was created about a year ago to take advantage of the growing social-networking wave. “It’s about culture change and adapting to this ongoing way of communicating. The bloggers are fully free to say what they want.”

Social-media services, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and countless other websites, have had a profound effect on how millions of Americans — especially those under 35 — interact with others (or don’t), shop and view brands. It’s a real-time digital lifestyle, powered by smartphones and netbooks, that often colors what products they purchase, how they view brands and where they spend most of their waking hours.

Marketers have noticed. Social-networking services increasingly are indispensable business tools, says Forrester Research. According to its survey of 1,217 business decision makers worldwide late last year, 95% use social networks to some extent.

And 53% of more than 300 marketers planned to increase social-media marketing spending this year, according to a Forrester presentation in April.

Five marketing trends that will emerge from the recession.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you: We’re in a recession.

The doom has advertisers pinching every penny and ad agencies continue to face facts and figures like these, from Forrester’s 2009 Global CMO Recession Survey: 71% of marketing budgets have been reduced this year, and more than half reported reductions greater than 20%.

But I have a unique take on the situation…well at least an optimistic take on it.

I think this might be the best thing that has happened to our industry in decades. Yes, you read this correctly. While I have empathy for those that have lost jobs and the extra pressure many of us are facing, it’s also forced us to innovate, reinvent ourselves, think more strategically, and most importantly bring a level of sophistication and maturity that has been desperately missing from digital advertising throughout most of the industry.

There are five trends I believe are reshaping the face of marketing.

1) We’re moving away from short-sighted, highly sales-driven marketing campaigns in favor of long-term brand platforms that use evergreen content to add value to your day.
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Examples include Nike+, whose latest effort serves as an enabler of self-discovery and health and delivers a sense of community within the running world.

Bank of America’s Small Business Online Community is also a great example in that it helps business owners to share knowledge.

A final example is Kraft’s iFood Assistant iPhone app, which adds convenience to recipe planning.

All these initiatives gave something while asking for little or nothing in return. But they’ll ultimately help foster a relationship with the consumer that builds brand value, loyalty and engagement for less money than the cost of repetitive ad campaigns.

2) Distributed Content moves us more in line to the modern digital ecosystem. It’s fragmented and complex, with consumers interacting through many devices and sites. Modern digital marketers have recognized that in terms of the consumer, the center is everywhere. As a result, digital content is now designed to be syndicated, re-skinned and reformatted while still remaining relevant.
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This evolution is pushing advertisers away from building million-dollar micro-sites and toward smart, tactical ideas that revolve around specific needs or even communities.

Now consumers can access similar content across primary websites, partner sites, widgets, applications, social presences, blogs and mobile devices. They can even enjoy entire rich experiences without ever visiting a primary brand site.

3) Customer service as marketing. While a great product or service backed up with great customer support or service remains your biggest asset in achieving success, never before has the vehicle of customer service become one your best methods for connecting with consumers in a social-media-driven web.
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Big business is taking notice, with brands like Comcast and Dell changing consumer sentiment around their brands and engaging them in the communities in which they reside. Better yet, they are doing so in a way that feels natural and adds value to the conversation, all while driving additional sales, boosting loyalty, and lowering operational and marketing costs.

4) The increased us of next-generation listening and targeting. As the way people spend their time becomes increasingly fragmented and marketers continue to face growing pressures to demonstrate the value of our services, the tools we are using to do so have undergone a significant evolution.

More than 100 technology firms are offering variants of social-media-monitoring tools that measure not only references to key search terms but also the sentiment of the messaging around them. In doing so, these tools not only provide insight into customer behavior that extends miles beyond surveys and focus groups, they help to inform media strategies that include both media buying and influencer marketing.

5) As an industry we have moved beyond basic web and campaign analytics. Marketing firms are now able to monitor the entire customer life cycle with significantly more accuracy and then track the correlation between traditional, digital and commerce channels and customer conversion.

Metrics with deeper analytics and tracking are enabling meaningful insight. As a result, in its ongoing path to full maturity, digital marketing is finally adopting meaningful metrics that we can equate back to real business value. Now marketers are moving beyond digital-campaign measurement standards such as traffic and are instead mapping key performance indicators back to metrics and ultimately the conversation funnel, which includes the different levels of engagement — awareness, consideration, purchase intent, purchase and loyalty.

A massive recession is never a good thing, but it’s safe to say that someday we will find that some good came from it.

MasterCard MoneySend

Who doesn’t have a MasterCard in their wallet?

MasterCard is now hoping it can achieve that kind of iconic status on the mobile phone. In June, the company launched a mobile payment platform enabling customers to transfer money to another person, and all they need to know is the recipient’s mobile phone number.

Currently, customers use the service through a prepaid card issued by The Bancorp Bank and then link it to their mobile phone number to send or receive money. But as more issuers enroll into the program, says MasterCard, mobile phone users will be able to take just about any account and link it to MoneySend.
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MasterCard is working with Obopay, a Redwood City, California-based startup, that is also powering the Nokia Money service.

One of the significant announcements from Apple this year was that it would allow developers to charge users for goods and services purchased through their apps. The move could turn out to be an important boost for mobile payments, because it will get people used to the idea of paying for things within special-purpose apps. For instance, the Taxi Magic iPhone app allows users to call a taxi through the app and then pay for the ride using their phone.

How to maintain a direct e-mail relationship and not breach consumer trust:

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Be cautious of treating your database as a homogeneous group. While they clearly have a shared interest, there are very likely strong differences as well. A database needs to be analyzed and organized to really unleash its full potential.

Protect and maintain the perception that records are being kept private at all costs, and repeatedly remind your database of the things you’re doing to ensure that.

Be prepared to quickly reply to questions or comments people in your database e-mail back to you.

Convey real news or offers, and don’t smother people with e-mails just because you can. Always have a real reason for contacting them. Ideally, you could do a short survey to find out how frequently they want to be contacted.

Make yourself stand out by knowing your competitors and what they’re offering. Bring something different to the table. There has to be a value exchange, whether it’s information-, entertainment or offer-based.